"There will not be significant changes to the TMA’s policy and our existing principles and ethics concerning workplace safety, as well as environmental sustainability, will remain our core objectives."
Could you introduce the main aims of the Turkish Miners Association?
The Turkish Miners Association (TMA) was created in 1948 and is Turkey’s oldest mining association and the only surviving one. The TMA represents up to 90% of the mining-producers and our membership contains 69 legal companies as well as 39 private individuals. Our members include some of the country’s biggest mining companies, government-owned companies, associations like the Turkish Coal Association, and foreign investors from countries like Canada.
Our mission is to support the Turkish mining industry, trying to find solutions to our members’ problems on a governmental level and securing the Turkish mining industry’s workplace safety and legal framework. We work step by step to gain more recognition and broaden our audience, ensuring our voice is heard.
Turkey has diverse minerals and complex geology due to being on the Tethyan Belt. What are the main strengths of Turkey´s mineral reserves in your opinion?
One of the main advantages is Turkey’s fortunate location exactly on the Tethyan Belt, which is an extremely rich area for minerals, leading to a high potential from chrome, copper, zinc, lead, to gold. So far, this potential has not been exhausted as our mining extractions have not reached deeper reserves yet, although exploration has taken place.
The government has shown serious interest in supporting this cause by making analyzes on a meta-basis to locate minerals. They achieved their target of one million meters of drilling last year and this year aim to increase that to two million meters, and next year three million meters. Foreign and private players are also doing a lot of research. Marble, not only minerals, has high potential, and the reserves are remarkable, especially in terms of the different colors and qualities available.
Acquiring permits, especially for forestry, is a significant challenge for the industry. Is the TMA looking at this issue?
Turkey struggles, as well as many other countries in the world, with environmental and forest permissions. We face very high prices for forestry permits, as well as it taking a long time to obtain them. Typically, mining reserves are found in rural areas such as forests or mountains. There is a widespread misconception in the forestry permit process that it is best to do mining in areas with few trees, but there are not always resources in these areas. We at the TMA, in collaboration with governmental departments, are working on shortening the time it takes to get permissions, as well as decreasing the permission fee. I am sure we will achieve these goals.
Foreign investment in the mining sector in Turkey has decreased in recent years. What role does the TMA see for foreign investment in the industry?
Since Turkey’s mining industry is one of high potential, of course we would like to increase our exports and foreign investment into the sector and decrease imports. More foreign investments are very welcome and would bring important value, such as technical improvements, as well as the development of a better culture concerning workplace safety. The TMA encourages foreign investment and functions as a bridge into Turkey’s mining industry.
It was recently the 4th anniversary of the Soma mine disaster. Safety will be the key topic at the TMA’s conference in December 2018. What initiatives is the association involved in with regards to safety?
This incident is the biggest blot on the Turkish mining industry’s history and a disgrace for all of us, which fills us all with great grief. It has changed Turkey’s view regarding workplace safety and legal regulations around it, shifting to a more concerned mindset from Turkish mining companies as well as the government. Right after Soma, the government launched some very restrictive regulations; some of them were done in a rush, so their development is still ongoing.
The TMA is highly concerned about safety. Right after Soma, we organized an international conference regarding safety in the workplace, on the international mining day, which is 4th December. We had guests from the international mining industries of United States, Canada, Australia and China. Lectures and discussions were held, as well as workshops and we noted very important aspects for companies and the government as well. Of course, you cannot change the world from one day to the other, but you need to start somewhere and follow this road for a minimum of five to ten years to implement a certain culture.
Our second conference was held in 2016, and this year our third conference will take place, with speakers from countries with large mining industries. There will be speakers from different actors such as government, universities, companies etc. From Turkey there will be around ten speakers. Also from Italy we will have guests from the marble industry talking about mining safety. Soma is still a bleeding wound for us. We will keep up our work to make sure this never happens again.
What are your objectives as the new President of the TMA and what is your vision for the mining industry going forward?
The TMA is celebrating its 70th anniversary. After taking the flag from my predecessor Mr. Sökmen and the former management team, of which half has been renewed, our aim is to carry out the TMA mission with grace, rather than implementing any revisions to an already well functioning mechanism. There will not be significant changes to the TMA’s policy and our existing principles and ethics concerning workplace safety, as well as environmental sustainability, will remain our core objectives. Also, we want to improve the industry’s techniques so Turkey can use its reserves more productively, always having international standards in mind. One thing that is very important is to maintain the respect and authority that the TMA has within our industry as an association of trust.